Remember this? Did you know that way back when…when Tupperware invented this toy, that you were using fine motor skills to play with it?

fine motor skills shaper sorter tupperware
And it was Tupperware!

If you’re a Gen X’er like me, you definitely remember this Tupperware toy. When I was young enough to play with this toy, IEPs didn’t even exist. There was no such thing as an IEP goal for Fine Motor Skills.

Now, this popular Tupperware toy is actually making a comeback. Why? Because it is so great for fine motor skills and so many other things.

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What is a Fine Motor Skill?

From Wikipedia: Fine motor skill (or dexterity) is the coordination of small muscles, in movements—usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers—with the eyes.

child using hands for fine motor

Fine Motor vs. Other Skills

Comparing fine motor to gross motor is relatively simple for parents to do. I often say, think of a rainy day vs. a sunny day for recess. Gross motor is what they’d do on a sunny day (playground, running, jumping, swings). Fine motor is what they’d likely do for indoor recess (puzzles, games, coloring).

However, many get confused between the differences between fine motor IEP goals and ADLs (activities of daily living). Many ADLs require good fine motor skills, such as eating, getting dressed or using a TV remote. However, not all ADLs are fine motor skills. They may fall under executive functioning or working memory.

I only mention this because many IEP teams look to the Occupational Therapist to “fix all the problems” when it may not fall under their domain.

Yes, OTs work on fine motor. And, some work on other things like social skills and EF. However, that does not mean that those skills are also fine motor skills, though they may involve fine motor activities.

When it’s more than Fine Motor Skills

I can only imagine how some kids feel. Imagine this–for years they’re struggling with handwriting. Practice and more practice. Everyone’s telling them that they don’t try hard enough. Eventually someone suggests dysgraphia. And it’s determined that is the child’s issue.

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Not every child with bad handwriting has dysgraphia. However, if the child has received numerous interventions and tells you that they are trying their hardest, it is time to consider other options.

Sometimes other issues manifest themselves as a lack of fine motor skills. You have to consider learning disabilities, vision issues and even interoception.

Even behaviors! If a child is exhibiting behaviors, it could be due to a lack of fine motor skills. Such as, avoiding tasks like writing because they struggle with it. Or, refusing to color with friends socially because they cannot do it.

iep goal fine motor

Fine Motor Skills vs. Activities

Skills make up activities. Think of an ADL, such as preparing breakfast. Or getting dressed. Each one requires a number of skills to complete the activity. I only mention this to help you with the breakdown of goals and objectives on the IEP.

Adapting Fine Motor Skills for Different Ages

I tried to keep these as broad as possible without listing specific tools or objects. That is so that you can easily adapt the skill for the right age. You likely would not ask a teen to play with a preschool toy in front of their peers.

However, you can replicate the same task on real life items like smartphones and remote controls.

A zipper doll will not be met with much enthusiasm from a 15-year-old boy, right? But what about a Nike backpack? Practice on that instead.

All you have to do is take the skill or activity and put it into this formula:

IEP goal formula for special education

Fine Motor IEP Goals

  1. Hands are open and relaxed most of the time
  2. Grasp something, open hand-fistful of cheerios
  3. Pincer grasp-one cheerio
  4. Hold a crayon, fist grasp
  5. Hold a crayon/pencil tri grasp
  6. Brush hair
  7. Self feed, self feed appropriately
  8. Open containers large or small
  9. Close containers large or small
  10. Open or close small containers like ziploc
  11. Unscrew a lid, large or small
  12. Close a lid, large or small (think jar of sauce vs. tube of toothpaste)
  13. Block puzzles
  14. Regular puzzles
  15. Turn pages
  16. On/off switches, various types
  17. Use utensils, adaptive or regular
  18. Use a computer mouse
  19. Point, use a touch screen
  20. Zippers
  21. Buttons
  22. Snaps
  23. Tie Shoes
  24. Pull pants up/down
  25. Click a ballpoint pen, put lids on markers
  26. Scissors skills, beginner to advanced
  27. Use an eraser
  28. Tear paper into pieces
  29. Put items in a container/slot
  30. Writing, beginner to advanced
  31. Tear along a perforation
  32. Folding
  33. Use a tape measure
  34. Put pegs in a peg board
  35. Play with Legos or Duplos and build
  36. Trace something with fingers
  37. Needle and thread (or lacing toys made for this purpose)
  38. Keys and locks
  39. Typing: one finger or qwerty style
  40. Use a calculator
  41. Use a hand puppet
  42. Make something out of playdoh or clay
  43. Sort into an egg carton
  44. Coins in piggybank
  45. Build with blocks
  46. Use a squirty toy
  47. Use a water gun with trigger
  48. Magnets on your refrigerator
  49. Dress/undress a doll
  50. Shaper Sorters, sorting toys

IEP Goals and Handwriting, Assistive Technology and OT

If it is determined that a child needs Assistive Technology, then the team needs to make sure that they have the fine motor skills to use whatever is appropriate for them. This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how often it gets overlooked.

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I hope this gets your wheels turning and you are on the path to some great fine motor goals on your child’s IEP.

Occupational Therapy IEP Goals

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